Since the results of Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS) were declared on 4 December, almost every day now, hundreds of aspirants’ throng the streets to protest against the alleged “discrepancies” by Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission (PSC), the top body for recruitment of administrative officers in Jammu and Kashmir. This is for the first time that such protests have been taking place simultaneously in Jammu and Srinagar, the twin capitals of the state, with the aggrieved accusing the commission of dropping “meritorious candidates” from the list and accommodating some “blue-eyed candidates.”
The JKPSC had advertised 277 posts of KAS officers for which notification was issued in May 2016. For one year, due to the Burhan Wani episode, the atmosphere was not conducive to hold the examinations in the state. Finally, the preliminary exam was held on 19 March, 2017. After a month, the result was announced and the cut off was 270 with 6,925 candidates declared qualified for the main examination.
However, hundreds of students started protesting after the results were declared alleging “mass rigging” saying the key for 15 questions was wrong. For example, the study of mountains has been described as oncology. In the meantime, a petition was filed by protesting students in the Jammu bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. The students claimed that their marks were higher than the cut-off mark, but were not declared qualified due to faulty keys. While the court case was still going on, an aspirant laid hands on the official key and it was found there were various faults in the answers. Following this development, the high court ordered the JKPSC to review the answer key.
In August 2017 the commission again declared a revised result wherein the cut off was increased from 270 to 277.77. This led to the ouster of 429 candidates from the earlier qualified 6,925 and a fresh batch of 429 candidates was declared qualified.
The commission, however, filed an LPA (Letter Patents Appeal) in the division bench but in its interim order, the bench directed the PSC to allow these 429 candidates to appear in the exam subject to the final judgment. While the main examination was about to be completed, the division bench in its final judgment quashed the main examination held on 13 March, 2018 and directed the PSC to hold fresh exam for 429 candidates plus 2,300 candidates in a “transparent” manner who also got qualified.
The July 2017 notification was cancelled and fresh 2,300 candidates were admitted by PSC in March 2018 after the JKPSC told the court if the 429 aspirants are allowed, the cut-off of 277.77 will be reduced to 260, thereby providing case for 2,300 more candidates to be declared qualified for the mains examination.
The first main exam was conducted in February this year. After exam for four papers was conducted, the court quashed the exam and the candidates were asked to again appear in July 2018 with the number of candidates reaching around 9,000. This, the candidates allege, violates the 1:25 rule of UPSC.
When the results were finally declared, “about 70 percent of aspirants, who had cleared the main exam earlier, were surprisingly not selected for viva. These students were earlier left out of the selection list by three to seven marks due to wrong answer key and they are now protesting”, Yasir Hussain, an aspirant who appeared in the exam held in July 2016, said.
Last week, the candidates appeared at the official residence of Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik, but they were denied audience. In Srinagar, the candidates approached the chairman of the commission but their pleas fell on deaf ears. The protesters are demanding a re-evaluation of their answer scripts. This week, they have threatened to intensify agitation if their demands were not met.
A majority of the rejected candidates allege that the JKPSC selected some “blue-eyed boys”. The candidates are demanding for the re-evaluation of the answer scripts. “The commission was in so much hurry that they called the candidates selected for the viva in 15 days after publishing the selection list. This is unprecedented in the history of JKPSC,” one of the candidates, who didn’t wish to be named, said.
Chairman of the commission, Latief Zaman Deva denied the allegation, saying that those who have doubts over the selection process can apply for reevaluation of their answer scripts but only after the exam process is completed.
“There is a system in place and no question of any discrepancies arises. If the candidates have any doubt, let them apply for the xerox of their answer scripts. But it will only happen after the exam process gets completed,” Deva said.
The main examination was again conducted by the commission from 2 July to 28 July this year but after so many litigations and delays, the commission created another controversy by re-conducting Zoology paper.
But his assurance has not placated the students. Mohd Shafi, who secured 1,317 in the last exam, said the results are full of faults.
“It is for the first time there have been so many protests because the result is full of faults. There are around 300 meritorious students who have been dropped. There are candidates who have passed the main examination many times, but this time they didn’t feature in the selection list,” Shafi said.
Zubair Masoodi, an aspirant, said those who qualified main exams in the past year were “deliberately” dropped from the selection list this year.” “It can be a system error and we are sure of our performance. We just want our papers to be reevaluated,” he said.
“I was thinking I may not even require to appear in the interview for I had secured good marks in mains. But I was surprised when my name didn’t figure in the final selection list. That is why we are asking for reevaluation of the results,” Sangeeta, another aspirant from Jammu, said.